With charming side-effects like weight gain and hair loss, it’s pretty tempting to stop taking my mood-stabilising medication. Each night, when I pop my pill out of its pack, something within me wants to rebel and throw it down the sink instead.
But I never do – for three small reasons. As I write this, they’re sleeping in their beds upstairs.
As a mum with young children, I don’t have the luxury of letting my Bipolar Disorder go unchecked. While I might quite enjoy the feeling of hypomania – with the surges in creativity and energy and reduced need for sleep – for me this can lead to an acute manic episode, causing heartache and worry for my family.
After experiencing numerous episodes of acute mania in my 20’s, staying on my medication and having a good relationship with my Psychiatrist means that I have avoided having an acute manic episode for over a decade.
The last time I was severely unwell was after the birth of my firstborn son – with days of insomnia following his birth culminating in me becoming seriously unwell. None of the midwives at my private maternity hospital knew what to do and sent me home.
My son was just six days old and cradled in his Daddy’s arms when l was led out of our house to a Police divvy van waiting outside – the unfortunate mode of transport to psychiatric hospitals for mentally unwell patients in Australia.
I worked hard to become well again after that traumatic episode and never want my now teenage son to witness his mum being taken to hospital again.
When my oldest son started primary school, during a very stressful time, I experienced acute depression for the first time. I would find myself crying uncontrollably in the car on the way home from work, only to sit staring at my plate unable to speak during our family dinner. Afterwards, instead of playing with the kids, I would curl up on my bed – while my husband spent hours patiently trying to talk me out of my anxiety.
Weekend were no longer a time for relaxation and fun. Instead, I would be lost in my own dark world – dreading the thought of leaving the house to go back to work on Monday. Finally, I realised that what was happening wasn’t normal and went to my Psychiatrist for help.
I share this experience because – for me – modern day medicine has been life changing.
My medication may cause me to raid the pantry at night and gain oodles of weight. It may have lowered my libido and even (one variety) caused my hair to fall out in handfuls.
But finding the right medication for me – and staying on it – has also enabled me to live a full, happy life with my family. It meant that I could confidently go on to have two more wonderful children, even after the trauma following my eldest son’s birth.
It has given me the ability to live out my calling, working in the international aid sector.
And – as my husband has just kindly pointed out to me – being stable on my medication has also meant that he and my family no longer have to tiptoe around my fluctuating moods, living in fear of another episode of depression or mania.
So when I hold that small yellow pill in the palm of my hand each night, I don’t throw it down the drain and hope for the best.
I take it as prescribed, in order to give my children and my family the best of me.